Blog: Ben CooperOxfam's report card for major food companies

Ben Cooper | 19 April 2016

In the sustainability arena, objective endorsement by a third party, particularly an NGO with credibility levels among consumers that even Unilever can only dream of, is an extremely valuable commodity.

As Oxfam publishes its latest Behind the Brands scorecard, which ranks the performance of ten major food and drink corporations on seven key issues of concern, the pleasure and the pain are all too easy to see.

Overall, there is some heartening news for the food sector. Judging the companies across areas such as climate change, water, women’s rights, working conditions, treatment of smallholder farmers, land rights and transparency, Oxfam says most of the companies have made "major strides to improve their policies over the three-year campaign".

Progress has been most evident in tackling gender inequality, protecting land rights and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while the least progress has been made on workers’ rights, water and transparency.

Then comes the inevitable – and generally very effective – naming and shaming. The encouraging thing for food companies, and for those who believe dialogue and cross-sector cooperation to be the most effective means of achieving meaningful change, Oxfam is good at giving credit where it believes credit is due.

Oxfam said Kellogg (+30%) and Unilever (+26%) had made the most progress across all issues since it launched its campaign in February 2013, and all of the companies had improved their overall score by at least 10% - except Danone.

While prepared to praise companies such as top performer Unilever, Nestle, Coca-Cola and Kellogg, Oxfam's “Must do better!” public admonishments for Danone and Associated British Foods are not aimed solely at those two companies, though naturally the NGO hopes it will spur those two to move faster.

Despite some “some strong progress” over the past three years, says Oxfam’s Erinch Sahan, “there is still a lot of work to do” across the board, the strong implication being that any temptation for some of the more progressive companies to take their foot off the pedal could land them on the naughty step next time.

For more on Oxfam's scorecard, click here.

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